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By Christopher Stipp

Archives? Right Here…

Instead of manning-up and actually going the emotionally hard route of being outrightly rejected by publishers, I’m rejecting them first and allowing you to give my entire book a preview, let you read the whole thing or, if you like, download the whole damn thing at no cost. Download and read my first book “Thank You, Goodnight” for FREE.

I was never a fan of Tom Hanks’ catchphrase, “Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get.”

Obviously, in order for this to be effective you’ve got to drawl it a little bit and affect the posture of a mild mannered southern man. Never believed the genuineness of it. Not once.

Not until I started doing interviews with people who I knew little about, or who I could find even less information about on the Internet, did I realize how apropos this sentiment is when you’re confronted with the prospect of sustaining a conversation with a complete stranger for twenty plus minutes. It genuinely gets into your head and you simply have to rely on your homework to get you through.

Hilary threw all that uncertainty out the proverbial window with her completely disarming personality and whip smart thoughts on subjects that range from middle eastern politics in the early 80’s to her quite alarming shoulder shrug attitude when it comes to realizing what kind of profession she’s chosen. What was really telling, and one of the more genuine moments she shared that I am thinking you won’t hear on Entertainment Tonight, was her relating of the scene she did with Tom Hanks in the upcoming CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (in theaters December 21st) where she was sitting in a hot tub with the man, trying to complete the scene. Tom, essentially, commented on the sweetness of life and how life’s lottery dealt them the opportunity to be actors, to be there sitting in a hot tub and earning a living while doing it.

Hilary’s frankness about where’s she been, where she’s going and how the writer’s strike is hitting close to home (it has landed right inside it) brought life again, once more, to Tom’s quote. It’s never an easy thing to try and think about what a stranger is going to be like when the digital tape is rolling but it certainly is a blessing to be able and capture humanity as it relates to someone as they talk about a profession where it’s sometimes hard to get real perspective.

Being true to thine self is hard when you’re a working actor and you are faced with the prospect of not having a flood of work coming in during a strike like this but you would never know this is getting anywhere close to rattling Hilary’s psyche. She is persevering regardless and isn’t letting a simple slow period (this has to end sometime) deter her from keeping on, keeping on.

CHRISTOPHER STIPP: So, how are you doing?

HILARY ANGELO: Good. I’m very well.

CS: Am I just another in a series of interviews for you?

ANGELO: Well, you are the second in a series of four today. Not too many. We are just starting to do them because the movie is about five weeks away.

CS: Yes, it is and I finally got a chance to see the trailer last week.

ANGELO: Oh, good! I’m actually in the first frame of the trailer.

CS: Oh, you are?

ANGELO: Yeah, I’m the girl in the hot tub who’s laughing.

CS: I know exactly who you are talking about.

ANGELO: There are three of us – there are two blondes and I’m the brunette.

CS: That leads me to my first question for you – I don’t know, just by watching the trailer, if I get it still or if I understand what the movie is about.

ANGELO: It’s funny that you say that because my husband was concerned about the same thing after we saw the trailer. He knows what the movie is about but he said I just don’t know if people will understand – is the marketing right? Are people really going to go see this? Well, I’ll put the record straight.

I think it’s a very important movie to see. It’s really about this one man, Charlie Wilson, who is passionate about Afghanistan’s fight against the Russians in the early 80’s. And through secret meetings and his congressman’s connections, he funded the war. It is more or less the story of how he helped the mujahideen get weapons and the various twists and turns of how he had to do that. He was known as a playboy congressman who never took his job seriously and he became passionate about this one cause.

And I think it’s a relevant movie today because it really about a man who gets involved in other’s peoples struggle in a foreign country where he doesn’t know any thing about the world of fanaticism. And we are in a place right now that is very similar although it’s in the public eye and not a secret. I don’t want to give away the ending but it’s very relevant to what’s going on today. So, that’s what the movie is about and I play a showgirl/stripper who’s in Vegas with Charlie Wilson.

In real life, she actually existed. She’s partying with Tom Hanks (Charlie Wilson) and she’s trying to seduce him and he really doesn’t want to have anything to do with her. He’s much more interested in Dan Rather on 60 Minutes talk about the Afghan struggle. But then it just introduces the first 15 minutes of the character he was and going into the history of what he is going to become. He gets himself in trouble by being around girls who drink too much and do illicit drugs.

CS: What do you think? If all of a sudden – we’ve seen the remunerations of things like that today – congressmen who don’t live by any moral laws and certainly this seems like a guy who just keeps doing and doing….what in your opinion changed that made him become consumed by all of this?

ANGELO: I think he just felt sorry for the Afghans who were literally trying to fight the Russians. And of course, this was 1981 when the cold war was the biggest thing we were fighting. You know, the big red curtain. And this was a war that was going on where America wasn’t stepping in and the Russians wanted to make the Afghans communists.

So I really think he was passionate about fighting off communisms for these Afghans and giving them democracy. I mean, literally fighting with dirt and rocks and the Russians were hitting them with missiles and bombs. So I think that’s where Charlie Wilson gets on the bandwagon and said we have to do something.

CS: Do you think he played a part in the Russians giving up? The Russians actually got beaten back.

ANGELO: Right.

CS: Did he play a part in that coming to fruition?

ANGELO: Yes, and that’s why it’s called Charlie Wilson’s War. If it wasn’t for him and Gust L. Avrakotos, a real CIA agent, it was him and two other guys working on this war. They had 1 million dollars to fight this war. And until Charlie Wilson came along there was just no way the Afghans were going to beat the Russians.

So yes, if it wasn’t for Charlie Wilson they would be Communist. So who knows where they would be today. Which is actually the twist.

CS: Yes…the twist being they gave rise to Osama Bin Laden.

ANGELO: Yes. I don’t know if you’ve read the book.CS: I did not.

ANGELO: It’s quite interesting and Aaron Sorkin did a great job making that book into a movie.

CS: I apologize that I am completely ignorant of this, but is Charlie Wilson still around today?

ANGELO: No, don’t apologize. Yes, he is. I met him at the wrap party. He wasn’t on the set the day that I was there but he was definitely there for consultation. Tom met him and I met him at the wrap party and asked him about my character and what she was like.

CS: I’m interested – what did he have to say about you – about your character?

ANGELO: He said in the book she was described as a showgirl, in the script she’s a stripper. He said she was a showgirl at Caesar’s Palace in the bar. It was just her and her friend and she were just so beautiful that he invited them up to a party with him. He doesn’t know what happened to them but they did have a wild night and the book doesn’t go into the truth of the wild night because I think it’s trying to protect Charlie Wilson, but you don’t really know what happened at that party and if Charlie partook of the drugs that was going on because it was the 80’s and he did get in trouble eventually. But he said they were lovely, fun girls.

(Laughs)

He said, “I had a good time with them!”, He’s a big Texas guy. I think he’s been married three times. I met his wife. He’s a character.

CS: Does he have anything to say regarding the periphery of what eventually was the fallout of this skrimish? It must be a hot button with this war eventually allowing Osama Bin Laden to come to where he is.

ANGELO: I didn’t ask him about that. I wished I had. But it was just the wrong place and wrong time because we were at a party celebrating.

CS: Of course.

ANGELO: You know, you have to sleep at night.

If I were him, he thought he was doing the right thing at the time. He didn’t know they were religious fanatics. They just really wasn’t a lot known. There wasn’t a Taliban at that time. There really wasn’t the religious extremism. We weren’t paying attention to them. I’m sure somebody knew about it but didn’t speak up.

CS: You said you were in a few scenes. How long were you on the set?

ANGELO: I was on the set for about two weeks. And we had to do rehearsals so I have a couple days of rehearsals. It was short in that it wasn’t the three months they were shooting but it certainly felt long to me because it was such a momentous work experience for me. I had never worked with the people I worked with and it was very gratifying to learn they are just regular people.

CS: What did you take away from working with Tom Hanks? At least, professionally speaking.

ANGELO: The most important thing I learned from him is that he respects everyone on set.

He knows everyone’s name from the key light’s assistant, the 2nd key light to of course the actors he’s working with in the scene with him. He just knows everyone’s name – he welcomes everyone in the morning. He’s just a real good person.

And the other thing he said to me, and I think about it everyday, is that “I am so lucky to have this job. I feel so blessed. Aren’t we blessed? Sitting in a hot tub, saying lines, pretending we are drinking martinis. Isn’t this the best job ever?” He just loves what he does. He knows he is lucky. Even though he is extremely talented, I think he deserves what he has. I think he feels like it’s undeserving. He said he’d be doing community theatre in Podunk, Iowa if he could. He’d still be acting, no matter what.

So, I think the perseverance that all actors need to get through the day – is you just have to do just go out and do what you do. He said it’s better than shoveling chicken heads. Yeah, OK, it is better than shoveling chicken heads. Some days it’s really hard when you are working very hard, tightening the belt, and working down the pipeline. For me, I’m not Tom Hanks. I have to still audition and fight the fight. But it was really inspiring.

CS: I looked over your resume and saw what you’ve been in – a lot of television, a lot of one episode, one episode, one episode. Going back to what you were talking about, how do you weigh the content of what you are given vs. the need for your to sustain yourself?

ANGELO: I wish I could say that I can pass on projects and say, “I don’t really need to do that,” But I do pass on certain things. I’m not going to do a student film or is barely paying me my pay wage which I feel I deserve. I don’t do things like that, but as far as TV, if I’m right for it, I audition for it. I gotta work.

And jobs like Charlie Wilson’s War – that’s a break for me. It’s a big movie. So hopefully with the success of that film my performance is deemed worthy that I will get other work because of it. You just never know. I will say that this part required nudity and I didn’t even think twice about it, where in the past I would definitely say, “No.”

But, because it was Mike Nichols, Aaron Sorkin, Tom Hanks, Phil Hoffman, Julia Roberts…I just couldn’t pass it up. So even going on the audition I said, OK, if I get it, I know I’ll have to be topless. So, that’s something I think about. If there’s nudity it has to be relevant to the story. It’s a very vulnerable place to put yourself in. It’s your body and you are an artist so you want to make sure it’s the right kind of project. So, in that sense, yes, I do have some standards…

(Laughs)

But I do have to work. I still do commercials and guest star. And I will continue to do it until my agent says, “You don’t have to do that anymore.” But I really do love the work. Even playing a guest star – I get to play different characters all the time when it’s a series – you do hear actors complain all the time (although I don’t know why they complain about having a series) that they get tired of playing the same character.

CS: I’ll do that.

ANGELO: Me too. I don’t mind playing the same character for four years. So, I just have to keep auditioning and get other people to see my work and that fame expands.

CS: When you do have to do your guest star to do your part, is there anything going on in your mind, like you are going to play the part as it is or is there something that is important to you that you bring to every performance?

ANGELO: Yes, for me it’s always just truth.

I have to find the truth of why and how they react, what’s going on in the scene, what about the other people in the scene – just always, always is the truth. I don’t like to fake it – I don’t want to fake it. I want to really find the experience of the scene. It’s not perfect. It’s a craft. You call on the techniques that you’ve learned and hopefully it works.

Because, when you are upset, it is very distracting to other people all of a sudden, there’s cameramen, there’s make-up people, there’s hair people, there’s directors. You work off the other actors using techniques and find the truth in the scene. It’s definitely a craft. It’s an art form. But I don’t like to wing it. I try to be as prepared as possible.

CS: On the subject of it being a craft…I saw that you spent a number of years doing ballet. What came first? Performance dance or performance art?

ANGELO: My mom said I used to dance in front of the television when I was two years old. I was always dancing. When I was four years old she put me in dancing school and I just fell in love with it. I loved, loved, loved it. There actually was a time when little girls got away from dance and were into soccer and softball.

But I was very stubborn and into ballet and was so passionate about it. I still am. It got to a point where it was 5 – 6 days a week in my early teens and it’s just a grueling art form. It’s hard on your body and you start to have injury to you body at 14 and going to orthopedic surgeons to find out what was wrong with me. Your feet, your hips, it’s just very difficult on your body, especially when you are growing. I stopped only because I was in high school and I wanted to do normal things, like go to football games, be a cheerleader, be in the school play, be class president. I just wanted to have extra curricular activities that weren’t ballet. If you want to be a serious ballet dancer you have to give up everything. Just like if you want to be a professional baseball player, you have to give up everything and just play baseball everyday after school. So I stopped and I think it was a really good decision because I got to do school plays and community theater.

And I just fell in love with the stage all over again but from a different perspective. I got an agent and started working right away.

CS: Really?

ANGELO: Granted…I grew up in Los Angeles so it was much easier for me than maybe other people who don’t live here. You have to come here after high school or college and you start a little bit later in life. I was fortunate to get a chance to start earlier in life, which is good because I think it made me stick around longer than I would have.

CS: And with this writer’s strike going on, are you being affected by that?

ANGELO: Yes, definitely because my husband is a screenwriter and he’s marching along somewhere over at Fox Studio today and he’s not working. But he sent things to Disney, November 1st and I’m crossing my fingers that the movies he has turned in will be green lighted, knock on wood. But as far as my career, I think TV is done. Not too much is going on.

Film-wise, things have to start production March 1st or it looks like the screen actors guild could walk. So, I have a good five months. I would love to get another job next year. I don’t know if we’re going to walk but if it doesn’t get resolved, then we probably will because my contract is up May 31st. It’s just not a good time and this town is really going to suffer. Yes, I guess I am directly affected, through my husband. Not good timing since my movie is coming out so soon.

CS: That’s what’s bizarre. You have this huge A-list movie and, right behind the scenes, you have this real-life thing happening.

ANGELO: Yes!

And I believe in the strike, I really do. It’s just the Wild West on the Internet and the writers need to be compensated and the actors will need to be compensated because we are not compensated either. So we’ll see how it goes. I understand both ends of the story and the producers are saying they just don’t know how the Internet is going to end up making money in the future. But I think they do. I think they have had some guys working on it for 10 years. I don’t know. I hope it gets solved in the next week.

CS: You’re actually the first real person I’ve talked to that has actually been directly affected.

ANGELO: Yes, it’s no fun. But what’s great is that the writers are really standing together and I’m really impressed by the guild itself and how they have really stood tall and how show runners are walking off shows. That to me is really impressive. That’s the only way things will get done with any speed is if they really stand firm.

CS: One last question: When you have things happen like this, when you have a strike going on and these horrible things are going on behind the scenes, is it making you feel that this is really what you are genuinely passionate about no matter what you need to do — dig in your heels, go work at Office Max?

ANGELO: Yes, it’s true. It’s not like I’m thinking I’ll just pack my bags and move to a different country. This is just a bump in the road. We had a commercial strike a few years ago and the actors survived however, the business did change for commercials after that. We are artists and we have to stick up for ourselves.

First of all, without the writers, there is nothing. I think it’s just telling the story of corporate America conglomerates and how they just don’t care. They are not taking care of their own people. But yes, my husband and I were trying to come up with a plan. He’s a wonderful skier so he said he would become a ski instructor and we’ll make it work. We’re coming up with ideas and we’ll make ends meet somehow.

Who knows, maybe we’ll come up with some great invention in the next month. Make a million dollars and then we can make our own movie…

(Laughs)

But, yes, it’s not making us say, that’s it for us. This is what we want to do and we love it.

CS: That’s all I have.

ANGELO: It was great to talk to you Christopher.

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